The centenary of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916 will be commemorated by Mid & East Antrim Borough this Sunday (26 June).
It is taking place at one of the most picturesque settings anywhere for a commemoration – high above Belfast Lough at the County Antrim War Memorial, Knockagh, and will see local young people also joining in a solemn act of remembrance at 11am.
The young people, representing schools across Mid and East Antrim Borough, will add poignancy to the formal ceremonies by laying their own wreath at the memorial as their own contribution.
The Mid and East Antrim Borough Council-led remembrance is for those from County Antrim and from across Ireland who fought in this bloody battle.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough, Councillor Audrey Wales, MBE said: “I commend all those who are commemorating the Somme in remembrance events both at home and at the original battlefield in France.
“As civic leader, I am proud to play my part in this poignant ceremony at Knockagh and welcome the ever growing attendance.
“As well as the Lord Lieutenant, this remembrance event will be attended by our own aldermen, councillors, senior officials including the Councils’ Chief Executive, and various local council representatives from across County Antrim as a whole, members from the Royal British Legion and representatives from the Armed Forces.”
Welcoming the young people’s input Cllr Wales said that bringing the younger generation along helped nurture their understanding of their own past and Co Antrim’s heritage: “This will encourage the young people to recognise the importance of service and given the continued sacrifice of our young men and women in conflicts around the world, this solemn occasion at the imposing hilltop memorial is an appropriate tribute to both today’s heroes and to the 36th (Ulster) Division and the 16th (Irish) Division who died all those years ago.”
The ceremony and march-past will include representation from the Royal British Legion, the Navy, Army, Royal Airforce and associated cadet organisations as well as the PSNI.
The salute is being taken by the Queen’s official representative, Joan Christie OBE, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for Co Antrim.
The event is one of a series of such commemorations to recall the thousands of WWI Irish soldiers from the 36th (Ulster) Division and comrades from the 16th (Irish) Division who died fighting between 1 July and 13 November 1916 in the fateful battle.
After a service, led by Rev Dr Sam Grant, where the youngsters’ wreath and those from the various organisations will be laid and the traditional two-minute silence is observed, there will be a short parade along Memorial Road past the civic representatives.
This year, the parade will be led by the band of the Irish Guards to add a further element of commemoration.
After the formal event, a reception will take place at the Civic Centre in Carrickfergus, where invited guests will enjoy refreshments, and see a specially written play by historian Philip Orr being staged, based on first-hand experiences of the bloody conflict.
The 3rd Carrickfergus Silver Band will also perform as series of musical pieces from the era and there will be a reading from representatives of the 16th Newtownabbey Boys Brigade.